Water Saving Tips

Saving water around the home

With a greater focus on South Australia's water supply in recent times, the following information is provided to assist residents to understand where water is used around the home and how to achieve substantial reductions in consumption.

Some of the simplest ways to reduce our water consumption around the home is by changing our behaviour (or habits). Whilst efficient appliances can help, water conservation doesn't have to cost the earth.

The following hierarchy demonstrates the preferred ways of dealing with water (from most efficient to least), including:

  • Avoid water use (eg. sweep paths instead of hosing)
  • Reduce water use (through sustainable use of alternate supplies and reducing consumption of mains water)
  • Reuse (capturing grey water for re-use in the garden through subsurface irrigation)
  • Recycle water (treating waste water or reclaimed water for alternative uses)
  • Disposal (of untreatable water in an appropriate manner so as not to cause detrimental impact on the receiving environment)

This hierarchy adapted from the Water Conservation Handbook, DEH, 2005 (pp. 11-12).

Water use inside the home

Water consumption inside the home is generally spread across the following areas:

Bathroom 30-35%
Toilet 25%
Laundry 25%
Kitchen 15-20%

Top 10 Water Saving Tips

In an effort to support people in reducing their use of mains water, Council provides the following "Top Ten Household Water saving tips" - guaranteed to make a difference.

The following tips are prioritised according to efficiency in reducing water consumption, potential payback on investment, and ease of implementation:

1. Check the flow of your existing showerhead

Knowing the flow rate of your showerhead lets you easily calculate water consumption in the shower.

The "Bucket test"

Materials: To measure the flow from your showerhead, you will need

  • a bucket
  • a measuring jug
  • a watch or clock with a second hand.
  1. Turn both taps on (as if you were about to have a shower)*;
  2. Hold the bucket under your showerhead for 20 seconds to catch water flow;
  3. Turn off the taps!
  4. Measure the amount of water caught in the bucket using a measuring jug;
  5. Multiply the result by three (as 20 seconds is only one-third of a minute)

Example: catching 5 litres in 20 seconds, multiplied by 3 results is 15 L / min.

A triple-A rated showerhead uses no more than 9 litres per minute.

2. Adjust the flow of your showerhead

(Don't turn the taps on so fast)… an ideal solution for sole-occupiers OR for homes with teenagers, install a AAA-rated showerhead (as necessary*):

By reducing the flow of your showerhead - if using a mains pressurew storage or instantaneous hot water service, you can achieve even more savings than provided through a AAA-rated showerhead. Depending on the type of showerhead, flows of 5-6 litres per minute can still be effective.

The case for a AAA-rated showerheadw:
Installing a AAA-rated showerhead or in-line flow restrictor is a practical solution to saving water in the bathroom (once you've established the need by completing the "Bucket test" - see water saving tip #1). AAA-rated showerheads can assist in making a substantial reduction in water use - particularly in larger households (or where a forced reduction in flow is sought).

Example: Assuming a flow of 12 litres per minute (mains pressure) and a shower time of 10 minutes per person each day, each occupant would be using a total of 120 litres per day - in a typical 3 person household, that's more than 130,000 litres each year!

*Houses served by gravity fed (low pressure) hot water services should have no need to install a AAA-rated showerhead as the flow is likely to be less than 9 litres per minute already.

wIt should be noted that older style gas instantaneous hot water services may not perform satisfactorily at lower flows. Modern 5-star instantaneous gas hot water systems are suited to lower flows and accordingly perform satisfactorily when supplying water to AAA-rated showerheads.

3. Cut down shower time!

The best way to save water in the shower without spending a cent is to keep showers short. Assuming a shower of 10 minutes duration, even using a AAA-rated showerhead (with a flow of 9 litres per minute) uses 90 litres per person per day. Three minute showers are achievable, two minutes is a challenge, and one minute divine. Reducing average shower time from ten minutes to five (and reducing flow from 12 litres to seven litres per minute) can save a three person household more than 27,000 litres each year.

4. If you are considering renovating your bathroom, how about replacing the toilet with a AAAA-rated model?

Cisterns are now rated to release only 4½ litres for a full flush (compared with 6, 9 or 11 from several years ago) and three litres for a half flush.

Assuming replacement of an older style (11 litre) full flush toilet, a three person household would save more than 42,000 litres per annum (based upon one full flush and four half flushes per person each day using a AAAA-rated toilet). The best news is that the lower flushing regime toilets cost no more than the 6/3 toilets developed a few years ago, and are suitable for use in all Adelaide suburbs.

Note that AAAA-rated "Smartflush" toilets need to have a matched cistern and pan to work effectively.

5. Washing machines account for about 25% of our internal water use.

Setting water levels to the size of the load, or washing only when you have a full load is a great start, but if your machine is in need of replacement, consider selecting an efficient model (AAAA or AAAAA-rated).
Go to http://www.wsaa.asn.au/ for details.

Outside the home

Around half of all residential water is used outside - mainly for watering gardens and lawns. The following actions can help reduce the amount of water used outside:

1. Cut down mowing time

Maintaining a lush green lawn takes lots of water. A 20% reduction in grassed area saves water and mowing time! Need an excuse to reduce time with the mower? Leaving the grass to grow taller also reduces evaporation.

2. A paler shade of green

Using a drought tolerant grass species (a variety of new types are now on the market), or simply not using quite as much water* so your grass isn't quite so lush, are further ways to conserve water.

It is important to remember that many homes in the eastern suburbs are built on reactive clay soils that benefit from maintaining a relatively constant moisture content year-round, in order to reduce structural cracking. This means that a complete "boycott" on garden watering is not recommended, as it may exacerbate seasonal cracking by allowing clay soils to dry and shrink.

3. Mulch garden beds

A thick layer of mulch helps reduce evaporation. Compost mixed into this material will add nutrients and help water penetrate the soil.

4. Change your garden watering regime

Fewer (but deeper) soaks compared with more frequent watering will train your plants / lawn to send roots deeper in search of water. Research shows that manual methods of watering (hose and sprinkler or by hand) generally use less water than automatic irrigation systems.

5. Choose plants suited to the environment

Once established, local provenance indigenous plantings can survive on seasonal rainfall.

A condensed list of the most readily available attractive indigenous species is provided below:

Small trees
Allocasuarina verticillata Drooping Sheoak
Callitris gracilis Native Pine
Acacia pycnantha Golden Wattle
Dodonaea viscosa Hop Bush
Bursaria spinosa Sweet Bursaria
Acacia acinacea Round leaf Wattle
Olearia ramulosa Twiggy daisy Bush
Goodenia amplexans Clasping Goodenia
Hakea carinata Black cockatoo food plant
Herbaceous wildflowers
Ranunculus lappaceus Native Buttercup
Lavatera pleibea Native Hollyhock
Psoralea australasica Scurf Pea
Arthropodium strictum Chocolate Lily
Poa labillardieri Tussock Grass
Themeda triandra Kangaroo Grass

Native plants not only have lower water requirements, but provide habitat for wildlife and native birds, whilst also providing a valuable food source.